The Department of Health has published its human resource strategy for the next four years. It addresses, inter alia, raising the education and the deployment of health care workers to ensure universal quality coverage of essential primary health care and other health services. One of the strategic priorities is to scale up and revitalise education, training and research. The objective is to ensure the revitalization of the production of a health workforce with the skills mix and competencies, education and training to meet the health service demand.
At present there is a shortfall of 82,962 health care professionals in South Africa. The aim is to reduce this backlog to 17,475 by 2020 and to have a surplus of 8,500 by 2025.
The plan targets improving access to health care professionals in rural and other remote areas. At present, 43,6% of the population live in rural areas, but are only served by 12% of doctors and 19% of nurses in the country; 21,3% of metro households belong to a medical aid, compared to 5,4% in rural areas. The infant mortality rate in rural areas is 52,6 per 1000 live births compared to 32 in urban areas. It is even worse in some rural areas in the Eastern Cape where it is as high as 70 deaths per 1000 live births.
The strategy proposes a rural health strategy to attract and retain health professionals and commits to drawing traditional leaders in as the first line of defence, together with community outreach health teams. The strategy further focuses on the training of both professionals and community health workers. There are an estimated 65 000 community based health care workers, many of whom work for NGOs. Their training is not standardised and varies in duration from four weeks to four years. The strategy formulates a plan for the standardisation of training and services offered by community health-care workers across the country. The medium term plan is to develop training infrastructure, plans, reimbursement and career pathways for community health workers.
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